Comparison of Musculoskeletal Injury and Behavioral Health Diagnoses Among U.S. Army Active Duty Servicewomen in Ground Combat and Non-Ground Combat Military Occupational Specialties

Kimberley J. Phillips, Amanda Banaag, Lee Anne C. Lynch, Hongyan Wu, Miranda Janvrin, Tracey Perez Koehlmoos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction: The U.S. Army's Soldier 2020 program, which started in January 2016, was designed to achieve full integration of women in all military occupational specialties. This study was undertaken to determine differences in risk of musculoskeletal injury and behavioral health (BH) disorders among U.S. Army Active Duty Servicewomen (ADSW) in ground combat military occupational specialties (MOS) versus those in non-ground combat MOS since the start of the program until January 2019. Materials and Methods: Using healthcare claims data from the Military Health System's Data Repository we conducted a cross-sectional study on ADSW from January 1, 2016 to January 1, 2019 and categorized them as either ground combat specialists (GCSs) or non-ground combat specialists (NGCSs). We identified all female soldiers in our cohort with a musculoskeletal injury (MSKI) and/or BH diagnosis during the study period. A multivariable logistic regression, adjusted by pregnancy or delivery status, was used to assess risk factors associated with GCS and included soldier age, race, body mass index (BMI), tobacco use, alcohol/substance use, and MSKI and BH status as predictor variables. Results: A total of 92,443 U.S. Army ADSW were identified, of whom 3,234 (3.5%) were GCS (infantry, field artillery, cavalry/armor, and air defense) and 89,209 (96.5%) were in non-ground combat billets. A large difference was observed when comparing the age of the population by occupation; GCS women were predominantly between the ages of 18-23 years (71.9%), compared to NGCS women aged 18-23 (41.0%). Top MSKI and BH diagnoses for both occupations were joint pain (44.9% GCS, 50.2% NGCS) and adjustment disorders (26.2% GCS, 28.0% NGCS). GCS women had lower odds for musculoskeletal injury (0.86 AOR, 0.79-0.93 CI, P = 0.0002), obesity per BMI classification (0.82 AOR, 0.70-0.97 CI, P = 0.0214), and BH disorders (0.87 AOR, 0.80-0.95 CI, P = 0.0019); and higher odds for tobacco use (1.44 AOR, 1.27-1.63 CI, P < 0.0001), substance use (1.36 AOR, 1.04-1.79 CI, P = 0.0257), and alcohol use (1.18 AOR, 1.02-1.38 CI, P = 0.0308) when compared to NGCS women. Conclusions: With the increasing focus on soldier medical readiness in today's U.S. Army, the health of all soldiers is of paramount concern to command groups, unit leaders, and individual soldiers. The integration of women into ground combat military occupational specialties is a relatively new program; further longitudinal research of these groups should follow, focusing on their progression and improvement in soldier readiness, overall health, and the well-being of all servicewomen.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E1024-E1029
JournalMilitary Medicine
Issue number9-10
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2022
Externally publishedYes


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